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Path of Exile Hardcore Necromancer Witch Build

Path of Exile Hardcore Necromancer Witch Build by Proven_Paradox

Hello all. Posting this build for critique, look it over and tell me what you think.

Macabre_Paradox
Level 53 (as of this posting) Witch, in the last stretch of Act 1 Merciless.

The concept
So, Necromancer. I'm aware that this is a pretty common and relatively safe way to build in Hardcore. But beyond raising a lot of minions, there are other ways one can go. I've seen a lot of necromancer builds posted that focus on casting spells of a particular element or picking up wand abilities. I decided to instead keep focusing on my minions. Once I've taken all the minion passives I want, how do I continue making my minions better?

The answer turns out to be pretty simple. Stack more auras. Each aura affects all of my minions. The benefit is multiplicative and stacks up really fast.

The build

To start, rush the minion passives. You'll get a few mana and energy shield passives on the way, and those should help you make it through the difficult first leg of the game. The best path naturally takes you next to a lot of nodes that might be useful for temporary boosts: one ends up next to a +30 strength and dex node very early on, which is great if one needs some stats to wear a good piece of gear or utilize an off-color gem. Depending on the state of one's gear, one might be well served by picking up the resist nodes. It turns out you can actually afford to skimp on defense a bit here so maxed resists aren't essential. Desirable, but not essential. Still, negative resists are bad; pick those nodes up if you need them to stay out of the red. We'll talk more about defense in a bit. You should get done with this around level 42.

Once that's done, it turns out you're in a really good spot to do a lot of different things with this build. You're next to a lot of life and/or energy shield clusters if you want to get those, and there's a lot of mana clusters in easy reach too if you're having mana troubles thanks to the auras. You're right next to a cluster of aura range increases as well if you feel you have to get too close to keep your minions in range. I used those for a while, but as my auras leveled it seemed less and less necessary, until I eventually refunded those points.

For me, at this point I was really hurting for some resists. Fortunately, the Templar starting area is in easy reach; I picked up Celestial Walker and Body and Soul at this point to help alleviate the problems that came with resistance penalties at higher difficulties.

After that I reached for the Curse cluster; I was having trouble with Temporal Chains' short duration in situations where this build is a little weak (we'll get to that in a bit). Hex Master being three nodes away was too good to pass up. After that, Whispers of Doom being just four away was an obvious choice: at this point I added Vulnerability to my loadout to help my minions even more.

Future Plans
At this point, my offense is rock solid, and I'm approaching the end game. To ensure I stay alive, I'm going to keep shoring up my defense. My plan for now is to get into the Shadow cluster and pick up Nullification next. After that, I actually want to try an experiment involving Necromantic Aegis. Depending on how that pans out and how many points I have to work with remaining after that, I intend to pick up the two mana regeneration passives I'm next to on the way from the Witch starting area to the middle, and then pick up life nodes. I'll do that by either by finishing the armor/ES cluster in the Templar area and taking the nodes next to them, or by going for the Fitness/Divine Toughness cluster I'm already next to.

Hold on, Dox...
...why no Chaos Inoculation?
Two reasons. First, I like being able to pop a flask if shit really goes against me, especially with DoT effects in the picture. Second, I want to eventually be using the Midnight Bargain wand, which does not function with Chaos Inoculation at all. If you don't want to use the wand and can go without flasks to fall back on, Chaos Inoculation is a great choice for this build. Right now my life is only ~500, while my energy shield is ~1650. I'd lose little and gain much by taking CI. But that wand looks really good to me, so I'm holding off. My experience has been that with good flasks, that IS enough life to deal with chaos damage as long as one is careful.

...why no Minion Instability?
Because I don't want my minions to die! Minion Instability means that minions die faster, since they pop at "low life" (I think that's 33%? I can't be assed to check at the moment.) instead of zero. That's essentially -33% (or whatever) life to all of my minions. Furthermore, it's actually really rare that I lose a minion to damage. I keep Animation flasks on my belt and use them often; I try not to let both of them get full at the same time. Between that and Clarity, my minions are really sturdy. Even skeletons are more often lost to duration or resummoning.

...why no Necromantic Aegis?
I need resists, and my shield provides. The extra ES is cool too. I have a gimmick in mind that I want to try out at some point, but I'm not sure if it'll pan out. I'll say more if it works.

...it looks like you missed a couple of minion life nodes there.
Observant of you. Yes, I didn't take those. At the time I didn't feel like I needed them, and I still don't. After I pick up Nullification, I may reconsider this depending on how they're holding up at the time.

...might those cost reduction nodes you're close to in the Templar tree help with your mana issue? (See below.)
A little, but I think I would be better served by increasing my overall mana pool.

My gear and my gems

Strategy
It should go without saying, but I keep my zombies and spectres maxed at all times. If one goes down, I replace them quickly.

I strongly prefer ranged monsters for spectres; I take a lot of archers and the like. Mages don't work as well since their damage is elemental, meaning it doesn't work with Hatred. I'm also unclear on whether or not their projectiles count as attacks, so I don't know if Anger and Wrath apply. Either way, I don't take them. The exception: mages that do area attacks are great. The electric Goat Shamans can wreck some formations handily with their Shock Nova, and the fire ones do well with their fireballs. I don't ever take spectres that cast curses: mine are better. If I can't find a ranged monster's corpse, a big one will do: bears and earth elementals work quite tell. If I can't find an archer or a tank monstrer, I'll pop up a mage. Small monsters are an absolute last resort. If my only choices are curse casters, I'll go without spectres. (This has never actually come up for me.)

My defenses are pretty decent now, but for most of the game I've been quite flimsy. The best defense is a small army between you and the aggressor though: my horde takes most of my damage for me. Enemies almost never target me, and I keep my distance from anything strong enough to potentially hit hard enough to kill me. This means that by focusing on my offense, I end up improving my primary defense as well. Skeletons are great for this: if I find myself exposed to archers, I just summon some skeletons in their faces. The skeletons will take the hit, and then the archers will lose interest in me. That's why I don't put my skeletons on a spell totem: I want to be able to precisely place them so they act as cover and as distractions to priority targets.

Most of my activity during a fight is to throw down skeletons and curses. The two curses work well with each other; Temporal keeps my minions and I from taking much damage while Vulnerability makes my zombies able to 1-shot most foes. If everything is already cursed, I might throw a Pulse or two into the fray, but it doesn't really help much. If I am targeted by anything (especially anything that's big enough to chop through my ES) I will focus on staying out of its reach until one of the minions gets its attention. This rarely takes long.

When exploring new areas, I'll summon skeletons ahead of me to "scout." Any monsters in the area will immediately aggro the skeletons first, meaning I don't get ambushed by a bunch of big hitters. The skeletons are expendable, so nothing is lost.

Minions are expensive to replace. There's no avoiding that on the skeletons, but I crafted those Animation flasks to keep the skeletons and spectres on their feet. Since keeping up with individual minions' health and responding appropriately isn't really viable, I'll typically just try to keep at least one of them recharging; if they both look full, I'll quickly tap one of them to top off any injured minions (as well as dealing with any chaos damage I might have taken). I typically alternate between flasks since there's a point where they look full, but actually aren't. The flasks don't use many charges and my undead get kills quickly, so they refill fast. This saves me a lot of mana.

I keep a set of ice and lightning resist rings in my stash at all times. My cold resist is fine in my default set now, but before I got that sapphire ring I was using a pair of Paua Rings. I would replace them in the Ship Graveyard and the Cavern of anger with Sapphire rings until I had 50% resists at least. For the Chamber of Sins, the lightning resist rings go on. This cuts into my mana, but the elemental damage in those areas is too dangerous to ignore.

Strengths
Gear independence.
I'm wearing no uniques, and a couple of my items are still only magic. It's not difficult to get gear sufficient to be successful with this build. This is really important to me; it irks me to see builds based on massive wealth as much as anything else. Kudos to the guys who're lucky/dedicated enough to get those godly 6-link items and all, but I like my builds able to function well with just 4-links. Midnight Bargain, Bones of Ullr, and Sidhebreath would be helpful on this build, but I don't need them.

Safety in numbers
I rarely take hits, and when I do they're not big ones. As long as I don't get stupid around Brutus or Vaal, I'm pretty safe.

All damage types are represented
My minions will be doing physical, fire, ice, and lightning damage consistently. Monsters are going to be vulnerable to SOMETHING I'm doing. I expect this to be useful when I start running maps; if the map I'm on includes a boost to resistances of a certain type, maybe I just won't run with that aura on.

Desync resistance
Desync happens. It sucks, but it's unavoidable. On occasion I'll get some pretty bad lag spikes; I'm on a university connection on a two year old laptop, so the game can chug a bit. When this happens, my minions have me covered. They can keep fighting even in the worst of lag, and they keep the heat off me when I can't fight back.

Weaknesses
Mana
If it wasn't clear enough already, this build has some mana issues. I'm reserving almost 70% of my mana and casting some expensive spells. Flasks do a lot to offset this, but it has an obvious influence on how I approach situations.

A slow start
Act 1 normal has been the most difficult time on this build by far. Minions start out really wimpy; Brutus can wipe them out with one blood slam, water elementals can bust three or four at a time with cold snap and ice nova, Merveil gives no shits about your skeletons and doesn't provide any corpses for your short lived zombies until phase 2. Oak was the worst offender; that sonnovabitch cleared all the skeletons out with one sweep and then makes short work of the zombies as they slap him while he's invincible. For a while, you're going to be restorting to spamming fireballs or pulses in difficult situations, kiting to keep from dying. By the time I got to normal Vaal I had enough minion life passives that the zombies could endure a fire slam, and the worst seemed over.

Oh my god what is going on I don't even
I'll have 10-20 minions in the fray at any given time. They have the effects of four auras orbiting them. I'm going to be throwing out two curses on every enemy. There is a lot of shit happening on the screen, and it can easily get overwhelming. Losing track of priority targets is a real risk.

AoE
Anything that hits multiple target is significantly more dangerous on this build. Losing three zombies to one hit can be a problem. Animation flasks go a long way to stop this, but it's still a pain.

Rhoas
You know how I've been talking about using minions as meat shields? Well, charging rhoas give zero shits about anything between them and their victim, and they tend to travel in packs. This can mean a lot of damage very fast. The last real close call I had (and I think the last time I actually ran out of energy shield) was to a pack of rhoas in the Ship Graveyard that came from the bottom of the screen, ignoring my skeleton scouts because I got too close to them--I couldn't see them coming in time to react. I was cursed with Vulnerability at the time as well I think, so that made the energy shield recharge that much slower. I lived through it, but if there had been one more I might have been in trouble.

In areas with rhoas, you might consider packing an Ice Wall gem to get a more solid barrier between you and flightless-bird induced death.

Minion Pathfinding
Screenshot

"Hey guys, what're you up to over there? Just hanging out? On the other side of the wall? All nine of you? I bet you're enjoying that, aren't you? Y'know, could've really used your help when this small hoard of sea monsters came at me looking for a meal. But you guys keep chilling over there, it's cool.

...Jackasses."

This is frustrating, but it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Eventually they teleported back to me.

Immortal Ally auras
Related to the above issue: minions are dumb. They can't select priority targets. This means that bosses with the aura that make allies unkillable can be a problem. Most of the time they can be taken out by spamming skeletons at him until they get the point, but some really big groups (such as ape swarms) can be really frustrating to kill.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice guide, is this build viable in open beta? Cant access "The build" i get the fallowing error:
The build you are trying to load is using an old version of the passive tree and will not work.

fix the link please :)